AW Chain Seven.
Key word taken from The Road Less Traveled: Mushroom, or What I Ate For Dinner Tonight.
Peggy mentioned comfort food...this could have so easily gone back to chocolate. And believe me I ran through all those chocolate stories in my mind, imagined all the bon bons and melties I could eat and call it research, but in the end I went for the mushroom. I think the mushroom needs a little PR.
The first time I ever ate a mushroom was when I came to Japan. I was in my fourth year at university, and that was the first time I ever partook in a mushroom. You see up until then I thought mushrooms were those poisonous things that when found on pizza were always quickly removed, squashed in a paper towel and promptly disposed of. Not only that, but I believed there was one variety.
It's starting to cool off somewhat. And that's all I need to fix one of my most favorite foods, hot pot! (As an aside, I took Chinese for something like four years and "hot pot" is the only word I can still say in that language. Everything else has simply vanished. But "huo guo", nope, that still stays with me. I figure it must be fate. I believe not only in people-fate...but food-fate as well. "I was meant to eat that cheesecake, really.")
How to make hot pot/huo guo/nabe:
You take a giant clay pot or one of these fancy new electric ones that allow you cook on your table, and fill it with water, a dash of dashi--a kind of fish stock (that sounds worse than it is) and heat that puppy up. Next you chop up various vegetables: Chinese cabbage, long onion, all sorts of mushrooms (enoki, shiitake, shimeji) etc. Another common ingredient is konyaku, a gelatin-like, non-tasting-like, fishy smelling-like food stuff. Here is the kind I use.
Konyaku is usually dark grey. The above is white (not so stinky) and tied in a knot. Plus it looks cool and feels freaky when you bite it.
Here is what the veggies look like all chopped up
For meat you can use either the super thin slices of pork or beef they sell or these chicken and vegetable meatballs that I often get. Look! I put four cans of beer on top of my meatballs and they got smooshed. Luckily they're raw and shape right back up with a little help from a spoon.
Stick all that into the hot pot and wait for it to cook. Bubble-bubble, steam-steam.
Now, you're all thinking, but it has no flavor save that fish stock stuff you mentioned. And you'd be right!
This is where it gets fun. They sell dipping sauces! The two main ones are goma, a sesame sauce or ponzu, a citrusy sauce. Aside from a bowl of rice to eat with the hot pot (nabe in Japanese, btw) you get a couple little bowls to fill with one or both of the dipping sauces. Retrieve whatever it is from the pot you got a hankerin' for, dunk it and eat!
Now, I'm a die hard ponzu nut. Here is my little bowl and chopsticks. Notice the meatball isn't exactly round. Yea, sorry about that. Look at all them 'shrooms.
J is a goma/sesame nut. So here he is eating his freshly dipped enoki.
Mushrooms are pretty big here, I guess. They even have their own theme song. I'm not kidding. A year or so ago some company came out with this commercial and it just took off. There have been a whole string of commercials as well as dolls, cell phone straps; everyone sings the song. You can't help it, when you go into the grocery store there is usually a cassette player playing it at the mushroom department. It's probably a kind of brain washing. But I suppose in a good way. Rather that than, eat more gummies, by the handful yea!
So, what did you have for supper tonight? And I better not hear, a hanful of gummies.
Now, you may all scamper off to Atomic Bear at Beyond the Great Chimney Production Log because he's so cool, and well...he's next!